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Yannick Bolasie 29

Though Evertonians had to wait for the player-acquisition phase of Ronald Koeman's introduction to Everton to really get going, they were finally rewarded for what patience they had left in August when the first of the new signings selected by the Dutchman and new Director of Football Steve Walsh began to arrive.

Following Idrissa Gueye and Ashley Williams through the door two days after the season-opener against Tottenham Hotspur was Yannick Bolasie in a deal with Crystal Palace that was officially undisclosed but various reports suggested that once appearance-related clauses are taken into account, it could eventually equal Everton's most expensive ever signing, matching the £28m paid to Chelsea for Romelu Lukaku.

The 27-year-old's move from Selhurst Park brought to an end a four-year spell with Palace, during which time he had emerged as one of the most feared wingers in the Premier League on his day, albeit one noted for his inconsistency and comparative lack of goals.

Though born in Lyon, France, Bolasie's career prior to Everton had, with the exception of a year in Malta with Floriana, been spent in England after he joined Rushden & Diamonds' youth setup at the age of 16.

He returned from his Maltese adventure when he was offered a trial by Plymouth Argyle where he spent three seasons before joining Barnet on loan for the 2009-10 season. He returned to Plymouth after scoring five goals in 42 games for the London side before Bristol City snapped him up on a two-year deal in 2011.

While he would be named that club's Young Player of the Year, Bolasie handed in a transfer request at the end of his first season because he wanted to return to London and he got his wish when Palace picked him up for an undisclosed fee.

His performances there were enough to earn him an international call-up to the Congolese national side, although he initially turned down the chance to represent them in the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations because he wanted to concentrate on his club form.

Despite his tendency towards erraticism, he also came to be regarded as one of the Premier League's most technically gifted players, attributes that when combined with his pace and power make him a feared opponent.

A reported target of Tottenham Hotspur the year before, it seemed unlikely that Bolasie would move outside of the southeast given his love for London but a fresh opportunity at Everton beckoned where Koeman would look to harness his abilities so that he could deliver on a consistent basis in his new team.

He started well with a nice cross that Lukaku buried in their first game together, and that would be the beginning of a burgeoning relationship the Big Man benefitted plenty from –– even though Bolasie did steal the ball off his toe to hammer home a fine goal at Burnley.

Some mixed play followed, with Boalsie's form firstly suffering together with the rest of the team as the 2016-17 season developed... before disaster struck for the Congolese star when he fell awkwardly under a challenge in a game against Manchester United, rupturing a knee ligament and tearing the meniscus, severe injuries that would bring his embryonic season to an end after only 13 Premier League games.

It would be over a year before he was deemed to be fit enough to return, on Boxing Day 2017 against West Brom. However, as he played in more games, it soon became clear that he needed a lot more game-time to develop anything approaching sufficient match-day sharpness, if he ever would. The truth of the situation only came out nearly a year later when the player admitted that he returned to playing in Sam Allardyce's team far too early and with inadequate preparation.

The kind of knee injury he suffered had impacted his primary assets of pace, acceleration and agility, though. At 29, despite plenty of energy, it became all too clear that his best days in a Blue shirt (precious few to speak of) were behind him.

That appeared to be confirmed under new manager, Marco Silva, with Bolasie out injured for the whole of pre-season, and he was persuaded to look elsewhere for regular football. He was initially wanted at Middlesborough where a deal was agreed but which ultimately collapsed when they could only pay a third of his £70k-a-week salary. Everton negotiated a better deal with Aston Villa but by mid-November the winger had still not made his first start for the Villains, although he had managed two goals and an assist from his 10 substitute appearances.

“Looking back, I came back too early," he said at the time. "I rushed back because I wanted to play a lot more minutes. I played more minutes at Everton when I came back than I have at Villa so far. But now I’ve done it the right way and I’m starting to see the rewards. I’m confident in my body now and able to deal with the training sessions.”

Although Bolasie was a part of almost every Villa first-team squad through the first half of the 2018-19 season, he abruptly returned to Everton in mid-January, having activated a clause in his loan agreement that allowed him to end his loan prematurely. Only two goals and five assists in 21 appearances were perhaps less than Villa were looking for in return on what they were paying but it seemed as though it was a unilateral decision by the player to return and play again for Everton.

Silva seemed lukewarm at best at his return, however, and downplayed the prospects of him being considered for the first team, suggesting that another loan deal would be the best option for him. That deal would be struck within 10 days by Marcel Brands, a relatively successful loan to Anderlecht for the rest of the season, with Bolasie getting 16 starts and scoring 7 goals but no permanent deal came from that spell in Belgium.

Bolasie returned to Finch Farm in late July 2019, following the Africa Cup of Nations, but was informed that nothing had changed regarding first-team opportunities: he would be training with David Unsworth and the Under-23s while a new club was found. Bolasie was focused and fully professional during his stint with the youngsters, earning praise for his attitude in a far from ideal situation. 

In the meantime, the task of finding him a new club, a permanent one if possible, was down to Brands. CSKA Moscow would not be the only side Bolasie was reported to have turned down, however; citing the threat of racist abuse he rejected a switch to Russia and he was not overly keen on a return to the Championship either, stressing that and wanted to play at a higher level.

As Everton tried to offload him, Bolasie held out for a club that suited him and, as time ran out, the cracks would appear on social media, with the winger saying people were “playing with my career like LEGO”. The tweet would be deleted but it reflected the underlying tension his situation had created.

On transfer deadline day in August 2019 he would seal a loan move to Sporting Lisbon and would make a point of thanking Everton, but it couldn't mask the frustrations he had been feeling for some time.  There had been a £10m release clause in his contract, but there weren't any takers or clubs that suited him. Everton's valuation of the player had apparently dropped to £4.5m (which would be less than his annually depreciated book value based on the club's original outlay) if he were to find a suitable club that would at least pay the same as the final year of his lucrative Everton contract.

He played in a number of games for Sporting, scoring only a couple of goals, but his spell in Portugal was terminated early when the Coronavirus pandemic took hold in Europe, whereupon he returned to the UK and more frustration, being unable to train at Finch Farm and ineligible for selection by new Everton manager Carlo Ancelotti:

"I am currently ineligible to play this current season and right now, with the regulations the way they are, only a certain allocated number of staff/players are permitted onto the training ground who are involved on match days," he said at the time. "It's been very hard not being able to train the way I want but in these times we are all having to adjust to things we don't find normal.

"All I can say is I'm working extremely hard behind the scenes to maintain my levels so, when I do get allowed back to train with the boys, I'm super ready to show the management and support staff that I'm back to being the player I was pre-injury. I've had two seasons of solid football where now I'm feeling how I should be."

Once the Covid-19 lockdown eased, he was allowed back at Finch Farm to train again ahead of what was, in all likelihood, his final season with the Toffees, assuming he wasn't able to secure a move elsewhere. It afforded him one last opportunity to prove he still had what it took to be a success in the Premier League but everything would be dependent on whether Ancelotti felt him worthy of being kept around.  Ancelotti did give him 15 mins in the first pre-season game at Blackpool, wearing the No 29 shirt, and he looked up for it.

But it was not enough for the Everton manager, who took the somewhat surprisng step of excluding the Cogolese star   from the 25-stronng first-team squad registered with the Premier League. A proposed move to Middlesbrough failed to get past the stage before Deadline Day and he would remain in limbo at Everton until January 2021 at least. Bolasie entered the final year of his Everton contract knowing that he wasn't in the manager's plans for the season and was free to find another club in order to play first-team football.

Rumoured interest from Greece and Turkey failed to materialise into anything concrete before the international transfer deadline on 5 October but Boro reportedly offered him a potential loan move until the end of the season, according to Sky Sports. However, no deal came to fruition before the domestic transfer deadline passed.

 

FactFile

Squad numbers 7, 14, 29, 31
Position Winger/Forward
Nationality DR Congo
Born Lyon, France
Date of birth 24 May 1989
Height 6'-1" (1.85 m)
Joined 15 August 2016
Joined from Crystal Palace
Signed under Ronald Koeman
Transfer fee £25m (^£28m)
Contract duration 5 years
Contract expires June 2021
Full debut v Sunderland (A)
12 September 2016
Previous Clubs Rushden & Diamonds
Floriana
Plymouth Argyle
Barnet (loan)
Bristol City
Crystal Palace
» Soccerbase Datafile
» Wikipedia Entry
» Transfermarkt

Everton Career

Season Squad No League Apps (sub) League Goals Cup Apps (sub) Cup Goals Total Apps (sub) Total Goals
2016-17 14 12 (1) 1 1 (1) 0 13 (2) 1
2017-18 7 11 (5) 1 1 (0) 0 12 (5) 1
2018-19 7 * 0 (0) 0 0 (0) 0 0 (0) 0
2019-20 31 $ 0 (0) 0 0 (0) 0 0 (0) 0
2020-21 29 0 (0) 0 0 (0) 0 0 (0) 0
  Totals 23 (6) 2 2 (1) 0 25 (7) 2
* On season-long loan at Aston Villa, switching to Anderlecht in January 2019
$ On season-long loan at Sporting Lisbon

Loan Spells

Season Team League Apps Cup Apps League Goals Cup Goals
2018-19 Aston Villa 9 (12) 0 (0) 2 0
2018-19 Anderlecht 6 (1) 10 (0) 4 3
2019-20 Sporting CP 12 (2) 7 (0) 1 1

  

Previous Career

Season Team Appearances (sub) Goals
2006-2007 Hillingdon Borough 5 0
2007-2008 Floriana 24 4
2008-2011 Plymouth Argyle 51 8
2009-2010 Barnet (loan) 42 5
2011-2012 Bristol City 23 1
2012-2016 Crystal Palace 133 12


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